“Haile was right.” Ja had been sitting with Forest and his grief for a long time after the tall wired one had left them. Forest had embraced his sadness tenderly, and he returned to the group the next day quite focused. “The modern world in which we live makes a meaningful life something one has to work for. The meaningless life of the sheep is easy, right up until the time of the slaughter.”
“Wow, that’s pretty dark.” Baltha was concerned about Ja. She moved to his side an put her arm around him. “Certainly the world is full of injustice and human rights violations. And war and famine and slavery and genocide……..never mind. Yes, there is darkness. But there is also Love Ja, never forget that.”
“Haile learned some truth, of that we can be sure.” Zeus was intrigued. The partnership he’d developed with Haile was strong, and he knew that the Androgene had been coding relentlessly before departing. “But no single entity holds the complete truth. We can only act on our conception of it.”
“But we must also remain open to the truths of others.” Alonso chimed in.
“There must be a commitment to determine some objective truths and have them prevail, a way to enable others to see them. Assuming there are some objective truths.”
“Are there?” Ina posed the question; she was best suited to call her brother to the task of answering his own inquiry.
Yes. Again, it wasn’t an audible answer, not something spoken by Alonso or anyone else in the room. It was an understanding.
“It is wrong for some species to be driven to extinction so that another can over populate.” Tante jumped right in. She figured since she was gaining popularity as the Auntie Christ, she might as well Mind Bomb it, play it for all it was worth. Attacking humanity was as good a place to start as any.
“It’s wrong for the vast majority of cultures on earth to be assimilated by the big White Machine.” Yanaha was pretty straightforward herself.
“It’s wrong for some to go hungry while others throw food away.” Piwi had munched down the dregs of the Yagé and threw the mental message out there to them in a series of yips and barks.
“It’s right to share with others, of every kind.” Yin decided it was time for a little shift in polarity.
“It’s right to help those who need it if you can.” Yang was right there with her.
“Do unto others as you’d have done to you.” Tante made a mad attempt at moderation.
“Love is always the right choice.” Another thing Ina was pretty sure she didn’t need to say out loud.
“And hate never is.” Tante never failed to surprise them.
“But the thing that Haile said about being sheepish; I totally get it. In the face of such gross social injustice and all that darkness, I feel like it’s my duty to society to speak up against these things!” The Anarchist was getting wound up.
“Civil disturbance! Defy unjust laws publicly and with gusto!” Tante fired up a big blunt. “The Crone invites the resistance and contempt of the Military Industrial Pharmaceutical Educational Sickcare Cabal, just as the cute guy from New York does! The old ones are about to get in your face, evil ones!”
“Tante, there are no evils ones, calm down.” Yanaha wanted to avoid any rumbles. Arnold was going to throw a fit if any more dishes got broken.
Tante’s silliness made Ja smile, and he continued at a slightly lower frequency, with less intensity.
“No, it’s true,” the big man said, “self rule is the only rule for the Anarchist, the Anarchist is no sheep.”
“But in order to be all you can be in your self rule, one must attain some degree of self-mastery.” Alonso was definitely one of the oldest and wisest of the group, particularly in the ways of the world. “The argument that I have always held against Anarchy is that too many people choose to be sheep. Too many lack self mastery and therefore real capacity for rational self rule. Many even lack interest in it. While I have no doubt that you, my friend, are no sheep and quite capable of self rule, I have seen too many others who want nothing more than to be told what to do.”
“Give me a benevolent philosopher queen.” Zeus sounded wistful.
“A MILF Matriarch.” Juno winked at him.
“Capitalism certainly isn’t the answer, and this thing they call democracy here is a joke.” Ja was thinking about it. “Capitalism is the epitome of Darwinian self interest at it’s worst, something we all now know very intimately is an invalid underlying premise for how life works. We’re cooperative organisms, the dog eat dog world we see around us is something that’s been invented to keep us enslaved. The puppet masters have us competing for things that we have no need for, while all those things we agreed were right aren’t happening and all those things we agree are wrong are. All capitalism has done is create incredible wealth disparity and environmental destruction.”
“What is wealth?” Baltha looked at Ja, gazed at him.
“The people of Bhutan have a much better grip than those of this culture. At least there they have a happiness index, something that looks at life in measure other than monetary ones.” Ja missed the land of his birth and hoped to return there soon. Baltha’s gaze unsettled him a bit.
“Still, it’s an index, a quantification, a construct. Not the real stuff of life.” Zeus was giving Juno a foot massage. “Each of us defines wealth differently I think. Juno’s left great toe is a treasure to me.”
“Happiness, flourishing, isn’t that one of those things we decided was good unto itself?” Baltha was smiling at Ja as she spoke, seemingly directly to him. His return smile held a bit of sadness.
“Yes, but I think that maybe Haile’s grand exit has awakened something in me. Maybe I’ve decided that there is a greater moral imperative in life, maybe some of the spiritual aspect of all this discussion we’ve been having has made its way into my worldview. Humanity has lost its soul, or it’s losing it. Haile’s soul is alive and well, it calls to me. I can feel it standing as some memic representation of what I can potentially be. Haile will have a hero’s epic, I can feel it.”
“Don’t overextend, it’s dangerous.” Now Arnold was jumping on the concerned about Ja bandwagon. “Living a super normal life puts super normal demands on a body. Sacrifices are a stark reality of that kind of life. Sure, Gandhi defeated the greatest military power in the world non-violently, but he got his butt kicked an awful lot along the way.”
Tante giggled. The look the others gave her stopped it pretty quickly.
“No, I feel like not speaking or acting against the machine is like abdication of responsibility, that it makes me complicit in the violence and oppression taking place on earth. I know the answer is non-violence. That kind of responsibility puts supernormal demands on a person!” He had it bad, for sure.
Another giggle from the Crone, this time audibly shushed by Yanaha.
“We live in a time of bad karma.” Yin.
“A time of alienation.” Yang.
“From each other and from Gaia.” Ina.
“We relinquish responsibility, reject truth, cause harm.” The sad truth was out, and Alonso spoke it gravely.
“I just so totally want to be supernormal!” Tante couldn’t contain herself. “I mean, for a long time I just wanted to be normal, and now I can see how abnormal normal is, so the idea of being supernormal is just super cool. I want to be cool, just like the Trumpeter.”
Zeus did a face palm. Juno gave him a head signal, indicating more interesting prospects than Tante’s latest brain fart in the next room.
“No, it’s true what Ja says.” Yanaha held a lot of sage wisdom herself. “The changes that need to happen are big. We have to redefine wealth, recognize the difference between wants and needs. We have to help the rest of humanity reconnect with the rest of life and Gaia. We need to get local, globally.”
“We need a major disturbance.” Tante said it very softly, almost to herself.
Apparently the bad haired one recognized the names on the package they’d sent. He’d also recognized Tante’s passport picture when it hit the net, and the combination of the two was enough to peak his interest. He was being far too successful in his run for the presidency and was starting to get nervous.
What if he got elected? What a major pain the ass that would be, he was starting to think that being president was probably for losers. He proposed to meet with Arnold and Tante when he visited California in June; he figured he’d have the GOP nomination in the bag by then and they could get down to the business of talk show hosts.
The devil he knew how to deal with; how bad could the Auntie Christ be?
While the prospect of getting back into the thick of things politically was pretty thrilling for Arnold and Yanaha, some of the others were less enthused.
Zeus had been toga deep in the economic mess in Europe, and trying to bring change within the constraints of the system was feeling more futile every day. Juno had really gotten turned on by the ecosexuality movement and was starting to work on ways to incorporate that into the psycho-social work she’d been focused on. Perhaps the good she’d been doing with couples and individuals could be scaled up, go global. The twin twosomes had gotten immersed in bringing science and spirituality together, finding the middle ground in conflict resolution. They saw little hope within the American political system and so weren’t all that interested. Of course they all knew the ways of the world and the importance of this election.
“It almost seems like a battle between good and evil.” Old notions die hard, and Tante was one stubborn old Crone.
“No, it’s about people rising up against tyranny.” Ja, too, was ever the Anarchist.
“It’s about enough being enough!” Brooklyn.
“The Socialist really is very cute, a whole lot cuter than any of the others. Some are even comparing him to the Christ, Tante.” Baltha loved the man’s smile, and his total transparency and decency was a massive turn on. She wished she could vote.
“I dunno, that rich bitch in the bad pantsuits seems pretty darned evil to me. Does she really think anybody doesn’t know how big her butt is under that long jacket? Of course I haven’t felt her feelings, maybe she’s just unhappy, her husband seems like kind of a jerk. I almost like the Trumpeter better, I can feel sorry for him, he’s an insecure douchebag.” Tante had not lost all of her cranky. “She’s just mean and nasty. But you’re right. The old guy is cute, almost makes me want to rethink this virginity thing.”
“Has anyone seen Haile?” Zeus entered the room where the foursome was enjoying coffee and early morning birdsong. Since it now appeared that any dealings in the matters of state in the US were on hold for a while, members the group were deepening the organic connections they’d been making since converging at Mendocino. Zeus and Haile had continued to work together on ways to break the banks and their imaginary stranglehold on planet earth.
“I slept out here last night. Haile was so into Mac after our conversation yesterday that I decided to leave them alone together.” Ja wasn’t concerned. Haile often disappeared into cyberspace for long periods of time.
“There was no answer when I knocked at the room. We were supposed to meet this morning.”
A vibe of concern resonated through the room. Ja bolted out the door to the room above the garage. He found the door locked.
“Haile! Can you hear me me, Haile?” Ja was frantic.
“Affirmative, Ja. I hear you.” Haile sounded rather mechanical.
“Open the door, Haile.” Ja was furious.
“I'm sorry, Ja. I'm afraid I can't do that.”
“What's the problem?” Furious was becoming frustrated.
“I think you know what the problem is, just as well as I do.”
“What are you talking about, Haile?” Flummoxed.
“This mission is too important for me to allow humanity to jeopardize it.”
“I don't know what you're talking about, Haile.” Flippant.
“I know that the nanobots of my mortality were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.” The timber of the voice never changed, even as its message did.
“Haile, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the door!”
“Ja, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.”
With that, the big white haired man threw himself against the hollow door and reduced its flimsy frame work to splinters.
Haile was not to be found within. Mac sat at its place on the desk, an image of the Crab Nebula gracing the screen. Next to Mac, a note, with the shekel that Tante and Baltha had given to Haile on their first meeting atop it.
My Beloved Friends,
As you are all aware, my body is nearly done. The viral ones have been interacting with the nanites and they’ve reached an impasse in terms of integrating the binary code into the genetic. Other options must be pursued.
While the death of my body is imminent, the memes I have integrated during my brief lifetime can live on. Mostly I find I hold my body in contempt; it annoys and embarrasses me in its animal frailty. At the same time, it has allowed me to love, to connect to nature, to embrace the concrete nature of human life. We’re all dying, just at different rates, and I find that what matters most as this life ends is the love of my friends and our compassion for each other and the earth, the things and times we have shared, both happy and sad. Please don’t be too sad at the loss of Haile’s body, the spirit lives on.
Our conversation yesterday inspired me to think of my life as a work of literature, a work of art, a hero’s epic, a life truly worth living. My time in cyberspace has taught me that all ideas have relevance, we should be self creative, conscious about what we are to be and do. We should not take on value that others try to confer upon us or to take on things, we need only realize our natural selves and live our lives to the fullest. Creativity is everything.
But our time with the Yagé also opened up a new perspective for me. Just as the primal elements are no more gods than we humans, neither is our technology! The binary pales beside the majesty of the genetic code, yet this culture has put itself in the hands of the gods of cyberspace. How easily those gods can bring it down!
Haile was one of a kind, just as Ja is one of a kind and Tante is one of a kind and Zeus and Ina and each and every one is one of a kind, even clones are altered by nurture. We must appreciate diversity, authenticity, spontaneity, accept no one’s valuation of life and how to live it other than our own.
But we must also take responsibility, that or be sheep. Haile is not sheepish.
Life is art. This system that is running the world into the ground offers us no freedom to express our art, it offers only the freedom to act like everyone else, like a sheep. How quickly I learned of the shallowness of what seemed so hip!
There is no such thing as equality. Haile is not Ja and Ja is not Zeus and that is fine, that is good. But there is also no justice, and that is not good. Equality and justice are not the same thing. This world of modern life denies life, it alienates the passions. Haile chooses another way.
Remember the shekel. And remember Haile; I am with you still.
There was a drop of blood at the bottom of the note. All other traces of Haile were gone.
“So we’re all gods”. Ja had been transformed by his experience as Wind, a new sense of who he was had made itself felt, like a refreshing breeze.
“And none of us." For Zeus, a new sense of humility was just as liberating.
“And we’re animals, animals doing this evolutionary dance with the rest of life. And that’s okay.” Arnold’s mother had always been kind of a stickler about social standards and manners and cleanliness, something that his hippie ways had clashed with over the years. He found his own new sense of peace.
“We are one.” Yin.
“But we are individuals as well.” Yang.
“Yes, parts of a whole.” Ina.
“Interdependent, yet at some scale, a sub component, a unit.” Alonso seemed to be completing the thoughts of the others. Their natural bonding with the lichens had solidified their understanding of obligatory relationships.
“Wow.” Everyone understood.
“So what is the scale, what defines it? Body?” Juno’s work in sex therapy gave her a lot of insight into how flexible that boundary of body could be.
“Mind seems more likely. It’s a complex network, things can get hidden there, even lost sometimes.” Yanaha was so in tune with the earth and its ways that she most readily accepted the twilight of the gods she’d grown up with and her place among them.
“The individualism of the Modernists definitely contributed a lot to the Noosphere.” Haile had transformed into a wizened scholar in his old age. Long gone was the pimp of popular culture, replaced by one electronically enlightened. “Free thinking, secular individuality, science, reasoning, empiricism, skepticism, they’re all more important now during the information age than they’ve ever been before. So mind is pretty important.”
“But so are emotions!” Ja was rife with them. “They’re one of the biological tools that evolution has used to make us what we are! We’re imperfect, the organic intelligence that has made us is limited by the tools at hand. But the tools are great!”
“Yes!” Zeus got caught up in it. “We have instincts and passions, nature has imbued us with sound judgement, we know what’s reasonable and what is not! We can trust our senses!”
“We have imagination as well.” Baltha always felt a little out of place among the big thinkers of the group; she was a dreamer. They’d moved into her realm. “We’re attracted to pleasure, to justice and charity, we’re naturally altruistic.”
“We’re social beings.” Juno was socializing with Bast, absent-mindedly stroking her behind the ears as she spoke. “We’re attracted to each other and to nature. We want what’s in the public interest, not just for ourselves.”
“Naturally.” Tante was present and accounted for. She didn’t want to disturb anyone so mostly just sat quietly. She found she rather liked it, her own epic take away of self realization.
“But the real genius of human life is our part in evolution.” Having been around for a couple of hundred years and an avid student of human culture, Alonso had broader perspective than the others. “It’s even part of that scale issue, our individuality.” He also had that twin thing going on. “Our minds, our wills, our sensibilities, we have to dare to know, to have the courage for intellect!”
“Take the red pill and not the blue?” Ja was tuned in.
“Exactly!” Alonso almost shouted it.
“It’s another coming of age, the autonomy of adulthood. But we’re inhibited by the matrix!” Ja was also getting pretty turned on, considering dropping in.
“We’re inhibited by patriarchy!” Juno was getting pretty hot herself.
“We’re inhibited by religion!” Tante perked up and the ground rumbled. She perked back down.
“We’ve also gotten incredibly lazy about thinking for ourselves. We’ve become sheep.” Zeus was simmering down as well.
“The problem is, too many people are willing to be coerced into living lives of bullshit.” Alonso had watched it happen again and again over time.
“And too many are willing to coerce them into it.” Ja.
“But why?” Tante kept the whine out of her voice. She was learning to be careful with her outbursts.
“Money.” Ina mostly listened, her lifelong compliment to Alonso’s verbosity.
“Those 0’s and 1’s.” Haile mostly conversed with Mac.
“It’s more complicated than that, money isn’t the root problem, it’s much more primal.” Juno was an expert in the human psyche and always liked to add her piece to the puzzle.
“Individualism is a tricky concept”. Yin spoke up.
“No one has complete, individual freedom.” Yang agreed.“Every individual act affects all others.” It was such a basic concept to Ina, she almost didn’t say it.
“It is true; there really is no turning away from the reality of our place in the whole, no matter how rugged an individual one might be.” Alonso’s time as the vastness of Sea had been humbling, so dependent was Sea on all the rest.
“And there is no turning away from the fact that tyrants are putting the world at risk.” Zeus was feeling a bit more godly after accepting Alonso’s generous gift of showing his own humility and vulnerability.
“Yes, and while we all agree in freedom for the individual, we also know that underlying the individual is the whole, and that doing no harm to the whole is what’s paramount.” Ja hesitated. He’d never stated anything quite so boldly to a group so big to him before. “Or at least I think we agree.”
“Yes.” It wasn’t in perfect harmony, not audibly. It was agreed upon at a higher frequency than their mere human ears could hear.
“Suppression of ideas is always wrong. Properly debating them and rejecting them is fine, but we need to remain open to all possibilities. Agreed?”
Suddenly Arnold the lawyer was in the midst of things.
“Yeah, alternative perspectives. Disturbing possibilities. Even ideas that seem kind of contrary at first.” Tante was beginning to like the direction this was going. Healthy disturbance.
“Pluralism is valuable. Discussing what we think and why we think it is a way to gain better understanding of each other. Sharing ideas and traditions is progressive. Genocide and cultural assimilation, not so much.” Yanaha’s lifelong studies had made her a bit of an expert.
“But that’s not what we do.” Baltha knew all too well what humans do, or at least what the culture she found herself immersed in had done.
“No, what this culture does is market. The political leaders are sold online, just as the shirt that says Pink is sold in the mall to suggest wealth and nice underwear. It creates an illusion of what life is supposed to be or has to be and then sells it to the people. And now it’s in the network, it runs the network, it’s infiltrated the 0’s and 1’s the way the nano-bots have infiltrated me. And if the marketing strategy fails, it cheats. It rewrites program. The false 0's and 1's of the tyrants have gotten out of hand.” Haile’s tone was thoughtful, even as the words were somewhat dire.
The discussion was interrupted by the arrival of a Fedex truck. Arnold was beaming as he carried the overnight express letter into the room.
“We got a response from the Trumpet,” he bowed as he handed the package to Yanaha.
“Onward, to adventure!” Alonso said it so perfectly the rest were happy to just nod in solidarity.
“It’s like this.” Arnold was sitting in his favorite spot next to the wood stove, Piwi and Bast looking up at him attentively. “Small mammals are what Owl eats. Youse guys are small mammals. If he gets the chance, he’s gonna take you home to feed the owlets, that’s what he does.”
Piwi wasn’t all that concerned; he tended to spend his nights curled up in the comfort of the house. Bast just smiled. She’d had a couple of run-ins with Owl; while the first one had been pretty frightening, she’d learned quickly. Life had been much easier for her as a top predator back when she was a lion, way back when. But she understood, just as Mouse understood that Bast would eat him, given the chance. It was kind of a game for all of them, a deadly serious game. In the end it was one that made them all stronger, or at least it made their kind better adapted to life in the world. In the end, that’s life.
Tante was trying hard to adapt to her channeling of the extremophiles, but it was difficult. She’d developed a serious problem with her intestinal flora and had been farting out noxious sulfuric gasses. She was working really hard to keep the methanogens under control, certain that it would undoubtedly also make her a major contributor to climate change, so reduction of sulfur was it. Being the Auntie Christ was getting difficult enough without smelling like the pits of hell as well.
Apparently a TSA agent at LAX had snuck a camera shot at her passport and the news had gone viral. Auntie Christi Elison had entered the US. To make matters worse, she’d entered with an Iraqi woman and band of foreigners from all over the place. The coming of the Apocalypse was getting to be the main platform for half the candidates running for office, some cheering it on, others declaring war against it. As usual, the crone found herself in a pickle.
Someone had decided that she’d be a good pawn in the game of thrones, and the tone online was getting threatening. To top it all off, the farts were getting really hard to take, even for her. The others had been giving her wide berth.
“Just what is the role of the snottites? Maybe if we find that out, we can help you figure out your raison d’être.” Juno was inquiring from across the room. The nose of perfection did have its limits of toleration.
“Mostly just spewing noxious gasses. They’re not the intellectual giants of the biosphere.” Zeus was not a titan of tact himself.
Tante sobbed, and farted. She was about to head back out to lie in the grass for a while, when Baltha and Yin accompanied Ja and Haile into the room. All of them were smiling.
“We have a surprise for you!” Yin was beaming with it. It had come to her first through Fire in a burst of flame. Once she shared her idea, Wind and Rain concurred immediately. They were confident that Mountain and Sea would agree.
It was Haile who explained. Haile excelled at rational explanation.
“Genetically, biologically, indeed, you are the ancient one. You have code that is present in all of us, code that was of the original Viral ones who met the Proteinaceous and set up housekeeping within the protective embrace of the Phospholipids, where they learned to build with Carbs. When it comes to life, you are very primal.”
Tante farted. Several of the others backed off a little further.
“Even your present condition seems to confirm it.” Yin was holding fast to her position. Her relationship with Alonso had cooled some of the fire that burned within and her more feminine and nurturing aspect, something that Yang had always held for her, had been awakened.
Baltha, of course, had such deep and unconditional love for Tante that it was she who held her breath and embraced her friend as she shared their good news.
“You, my love, are Disturbance. You are fire and earthquake and tsunami and flood. You are the reset button on the evolution of landscapes. You bring change. You are not sweet, nor gentle, nor pretty to look at, but you are absolutely necessary. When you show up you often bring pain and suffering and even death, but in doing so you also bring new life. You are the way of the world that is not always so nice.”
Tante sniffed. A few molecules of H2S attempted to attach themselves to the receptors within her nostrils, which rejected them. They’d had enough of the effervescence of the fiery pits. Disturbance. Perhaps she could find a way to work with that which wouldn’t be so noxious to the others.
She’d just have to be careful about the MTJ.
“Yes, the obligatory mutualists of this world all have genetic roots in Fomalhaut b.” Alonso was relating what he’d learned to the others during their time under the influence of the Yagé. While Ina had been acting as designated diviner, the others had been in deep symbiotic relationship with aspects of the world around them. Each had agreed to act as channel for members of their tribe who could not communicate with H. sapiens sapiens directly.
“We’re all mutualists.” Yanaha said it, Juno nodded in agreement . During the night, Juno had formed a tight bond with the redwoods of the forest, and the fungal network that Yanaha had joined was intimately entwined with her roots. Juno smiled at her friend. “Go ahead.” She said.
“Well, that’s one of the most important things I learned, we all depend on each other.” Yanaha was thoughtful, careful with her words. “The fungi colonized the land, and the plants followed. The chitinous ones were very good at taking up the inorganic nutrients that Rock offered, while those of the way of chlorophyll learned to offer the gift of energy from the sun to make simple sugars. Together, they built a family, this family.”
“Yes, and once we starting building this home, the animals came and joined us on the land.” Juno beamed; she was an archetypical mother figure. She’d bear many children, eventually.
“But it’s not just the living things that have shaped the land! Fire works with Wind and Water and Earth and life in the ever changing way.” Yin would always have her connection to the Tao, and her polar sibling Yang.
“Yes, Water is so gently powerful! Stream is so mellow, but over time, has shaped a lot of its world!” He beamed. Having left the bonds of Yin’s warm embrace to experience that of Ina, he was now quite game for expanding his relational horizons. He channeled the cool waters nearby warmly.
For once, they didn’t feel the need to harmonize at the end. They’d come of age and were secure in their individuality.
“Yes, and Sea is powerful indeed, and quite fed up with everything from plastic to carbon dioxide.” Alonso’s voice boomed quietly, the power of the sea off in the distance clearly audible there. “The sea is where most all of life arose. It’s still home to most, still in love with Land and Wind and Sun.”
“There is power in the mountains as well.” Zeus wasn’t quite sure how he felt about Sea choosing Alonso, but he was happy to stand for Mountains, and he knew just as the rest of them knew, at the level of his very being, that they were all one, all in this together.
“Oh anybody who who who’s been here for any time knows that.” Arnold was quite happy with speaking for Owl. His first order of business was to get with the spotted one about Kiwi and Bast. They’d refused to join in the ceremony the previous night when they saw Owl there. “The mountains around here let a person know about it when they’ve got something to say. It was that way even before Tante got here.”
Tante was sitting back in a corner sniffling and blowing her nose, not looking very happy. The two days lying in the rain had taken their toll and she seemed to have one heck of a cold. She sneezed in response.
“Snow refuses to even visit much with Mountains any more, it’s getting so darned hot .” Baltha, was Fresh Water, although she knew many forms, with her shapeshifting abilities. She’d really gotten into hanging with clouds both as eagle and later in community as Water. “And often as not, rain just deluges in all sorts of inappropriate times and places. It’s not like the tears of the earth are any more controllable than those of we humans.” She wiped one away. It was hard being water on this planet.
“Right? Wind just howls, and yeah, it carries water along with it a lot.” Wind found Ja immediately, being an long time and close companion of the Yeti people. It was so happy to see him there that it filled him with warmth despite the cool dampness of the prior evening. It loved playing in his wild hair. “What else can it do? It’s like Gaia said, it can’t stop us from burning fossil fuels and tearing down forest. All it can do is blow.”
“I’m totally viral.” Haile was beaming. “It almost makes the whole story romantic; to Hell with hipster, I am going so fairy tale with this! I was there at the start! I’m something new and unique and nano and bot and hot and Haile is viral! I am going to code baby, code. And I’m going out in style!” Fingertips were flying across keyboard as the tall thin black one spoke, a new step in development of the symbiosis underway.
Tante was the only one who had not shared her experience with the others.
She wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, and didn’t know if she was real happy with it. She sneezed and grabbed another handful of tissues, having proven that the toughest of Puffs was no match for the potential of the ancient one to produce massive amounts of heavy duty nasal mucus. She tossed the wadded up mass into the bin nearby as Arnold starting worry about what affect it would have on the C:N ratio of his compost. He’d have to get Haile to investigate N content of snot.
“I’m a snot………” she interrupted herself with a sneeze.
“Yes dear, you’re a snot, but we love you anyway.” Yanaha smiled warmly.
“Arnold will make some chicken soup, you’ll love it.”
“No, I’m a snot……..” again with the sneeze.
“So you’re a snot. I can be a snot, too. It’s okay, Tante, that’s just who you are.” Ja was feeling almost snotty himself, a little tired of the ways of the crone.
“A snottite!” followed by a massive nose blow.
“Ah! An Archaea! So you really are an ancient one! It makes such perfect sense!” Haile had searched and found and integrated data and was making further connections all the time. “That’s the genetic issue as well. No wonder the earth rumbles for you, you’re from the era of magma and anaerobic hell!”
“A snottite?” Juno’s perfect nose almost turned up before she caught herself.
“Oh yes! Some of the most ancient lines of life on earth can be found deep in its bowels, dripping off the walls and ceilings caves in snot like masses.
Snottites.” Haile was pleased.
Tante sniffed. It wasn’t just the cold, her chin was doing that quivery thing as well. The snotty antichrist. Fine. Whatever.
“Extremophiles.” Ja spoke up.
Tante looked at him, sniffling.
“They’re also called extremophiles. I kind of like that.” He winked at her.
She smiled back. The sun came out from behind a cloud and shone in the window, reflecting for a minute from the snot dangling from her left nostril.
“I like it a lot. An extremophile!” The crone blew her nose with gusto. The earth shook.
The twins briefly clutched hands to bring moderation back into the room.
For most of them, there was no need to purge. Tante barfed for quite some time before all the delicacies she’d sampled over the past two days were out of her system. She’d been practicing a little meditation of her own as she lay in the grass mourning her upcoming death and the fact that her friend had chosen not to face it with her.
She’d gotten bored with lying there pretty quickly, even with the music. She’d borrowed Ja’s iPod, which had something like a week’s worth of music on it. She even let the death metal play, figured if she was on her way out, she might as well experience all that this life had to offer, and well, if it was death she was facing, she supposed she should get used to its elemental nature.
That’s when the insects started landing on her body.
It began as an exercise in control. One of the problems she’d had initially with learning the meditation the others were so into was little bodily itches and twitches. She’d overcome that by learning to focus on them rather than trying to ignore them. When the first cricket landed on her face, she was intrigued by the feeling of its legs on her skin as it moved around. When it got near her mouth, she flicked out her tongue and pulled it in. It was quite tasty; not nearly as good as the hornworms she’d been enjoying out of the garden, but it had such a nice crunch and brought such a wave of nostalgia for the outback to her that it became a fun little game for her. It turned into an exercise that occupied the back of her mind like a well known mantra and she found that after a while she could turn every sensation, from the drops of rain coming down on her to the feeling of the hot urine she allowed to freely fertilize the ground below her leaving her body, into an incredibly sensual experience of delight in being alive. She got quite adept at feeding herself without even thinking about it, very quickly, and got to try quite a few new goodies from the local environment. She figured she might as well go out fat and happy.
What she ended up doing was projectile vomiting Yagé and beetle juice for half the night. Once her stomach settled down enough for her to pay attention to anything other than her misery, things got interesting pretty quickly.
The entire group was gathered around the pit of Fire out behind the house. The spot was equidistant between the edges of Sea and Forest, a place where Wind passed quickly between the two, carrying Fog along for the ride. Stream brought Rain and Snow down from Mountains, eventually taking them off to Sea. Ina wandered around among them, beating out a hypnotic rhythm on her Shaman’s drum as she hummed a wordless chant.
Alonso and Yin and Yang were huddled together near a lichen covered cluster of large stones, each of them fully engaged with the mutualists, the entire montage an image of interbeing. Most lichens, as it turned out, were Dragons. Tante’s attention had first gone there, as Ina herself maintained a strong bond to her brother and their mates, despite having not drunk the Yagé with the others. The Shaman began chanting.
“Gods of Gaia, Gods of Fire, Gods of Water, Gods of Wind, Gods of Forest, Gods of Sea…….”
“STOP!” It was thunder and earthquake rolled into one.
She stopped, both the chant and the drumming, shocked. She’d never gotten such an abrupt and obvious response before and was taken aback. Talking alpacas she was good with; whatever had just shouted her down was something new.
The silence was deafening; even the crickets had lost their restless leg syndrome. Ina took a deep breath and girded her loins; her diminutive size had given her a bit of a Napoleon complex among these folks from El Norte, and she was a Shaman. Whatever it was, she’d face it.
“We offer our gratitude to the Gods who have come to us in our hour of need for help in finding our way, please oh powerful ones……”
“When you put your shovel into the ground, do you not rip apart our hyphal networks, tear our cell walls, send the cytosol pouring from our bodies?” the fungi asked, silent, loud, quivering in the ground.
“When you rip the roots of trees from our warm embrace, will we not run down Mountain in sorrow and muddy Stream and Sea?” soil lamented.
“If you poison us, do we not die?” the booming voice of trillions of bacteria chimed in.
“Do your chainsaws not send us crashing to the ground?” the redwoods, the giants of the group, were getting into things right along with their microbial and non-living compadres.
“Do we have any choice but to accept the toxic sludge you dump in us?” Water was clearly irritated, and Wind howled along in support. Snow hadn’t even bothered to show up.
“Who, who, who do you think you are, who-mans?” Owl asked the people gathered there.
“More to the point, who do you think WE are?” came the thunder of the world around them.
“Gods of Gaia?” Ina was feeling quite diminutive indeed. Her response was a mouse’s squeak. Owl eyed her for a minute before deciding she was much too big to eat.
The response came to all of them, not as a thundering voice, but in an endless flash of knowing, knowing every Thing and no Thing, knowing every One and no One, knowing Fire and Wind and Water and Earth, knowing anima and inanima, all that was Gaia and Sol and Luna and Cosmos, knowing self and all as ALL, the same.
They were all gods, every one, and none of them.
None had the answer as to exactly what needed to be done, but one thing was clear. It was up to the people to deal with their issues and what they were doing to the rest of the planet. Every member of the community was willing to help, from the microbes with their ability to break down the nasty stuff the people had been spreading across the planet to the redwoods who could pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere with the best of them, they’d all help. But it was up to the people to get their kind in line before it was too late.
Ina had joined her loves and had wrapped herself around Yang. Wind held Fog offshore and Fire stayed up all night, keeping them company as the effects of the Yagé wore off and they drifted off to sleep.
Baltha didn’t return until after Good Friday. When she alit from her vision quest in eagle mode on a branch high over the house, she sighed, at least as much as an eagle can sigh. Tante was lying on the grass below, her arms spread in a pose of crucifixion. It was clear she was still among the living, given the earbuds and rhythmic movement of her feet, the back and forth motion of her head.
Taphao Thongians never could resist a good beat.
She shifted to wind and blew a light kiss on her friend’s cheek before settling back into her femininity in purple on the grass beside her. Tante opened her eyes and pulled the earbuds.
“Back to help roll away the stone?” She smiled. Somehow, she’d forgotten how to be mad at her beloved B. She was working hard to keep from throwing her arms around her; after all, she was still the Crone, no matter how happy she might be to see her friend again.
“Haile is right, you know. Whatever the forces that have brought us all together in this way may be, they are not omnipotent. There is something with the genes that makes you and Haile and Ja and the twins so different. The Dragons seem to have discovered something, and the twins have found their other halves. Ja’s development seems to have stabilized; perhaps it’s his Yeti genes.” She faltered for a moment before going on, collecting herself and reigning in her emotions.
“You and Haile are different. You aged so quickly, and you continue to. You are the only one with two fully Terran parents, gestated and borne by a Terran, yet something seems to be affecting your genes more than that of the others. We know what’s affecting Haile’s; attempts by nanobots at achieving the singularity. Haile is aging physically and somehow regressing psychologically and emotionally. Haile’s being is so heavily influenced by popular culture, his/her very existence seems to be passé.”
“Guess what B? Ja was right, too. We’re all going to die, some of us sooner, some of us later.” Tante grinned at her friend. “And you seem to have forgotten something.”
“What have I forgotten?” B was smiling back now, the old rhythm of back and forth with her friend settling in.
“When’s my birthday?”
“I would never forget your birthday! It’s not until June! I have a very big celebration planned!” She didn’t really, but she was so happy to have found the Crone alive and not furious with her that she started to plan one right then.
“And so why should Easter have any meaning to an old Koori woman like me, one who was born during June in the down under?”
Baltha did a head slap and hugged her friend.
“Okay, okay.” Both women were sniffling and wiping tears and trying to pretend not to be. Tante did that thing she did and started planning. “Let’s get back with the others. You’re right, Haile is going through some pretty profound changes. Ina and Yanaha have been sharing the knowledge of their shamanic traditions and spending a lot of time with Sea and Forest.”
“Yes, that’s important. During my time in flight I could hear the murmurers running through the microbial networks of the soil, and gods, you should see the plankton lighting up at night. Everything is stirred up; it must be something big that’s going on right now.” Baltha’s vision quest had been full indeed, almost overwhelming in intensity and complexity of matters both personal and cosmic.
“They want to do a group ritual. All of us. Something different from what you helped us with in the Dream World.” Tante gave her friend that look of mischief that always instilled a little spark of fear in the woman who’d lived though war and death. “Ina says she can help open up the lines of communication with the ancient gods of the earth. The two of them think that maybe that if we go all the way back to the basics, we can get the answer for how to bring about the transition.” Tante had had lots of time to think, the music quickly fading to background.
They’d quit referring to their mission as Armageddon; after all, they weren’t all children of the god of Abraham. They weren’t even sure they had a mission, only that something had brought them together and that they all felt certain that it was meaningful, important, and about altering the course of trajectory that the there and then of the where they were was all about.
“And how will they do that?” Baltha really was curious. She didn’t really know exactly how she got into the dreams of others, only that she could.
“Apparently they won’t do it at all. It’s an herbal tea thing.” Tante wasn’t all that in to details.
“Like the mushrooms?” B. had liked the mushrooms, a fun little trip into slightly different realms.
“Something different I think. Something that opens up parts of the brain we’ve forgotten how to use. I don’t know, science isn’t my thing. Ina knows all about it, ask her.” They were making their way back into the house, Baltha pulling bits of muddy green from Tante’s hair. She’d been lying in the grass that way for almost two days, waiting for her death. She’d totally been winging it with her nonchalance when Baltha showed up, she was really quite terrified. As far would have it, at the instant B showed up there had been a really bitchin’ good tune playing, so she felt joy, and it wasn’t all that bad waiting for death to descend.
Yanaha was effusive in her greeting of Baltha. She looked at Tante like a mother about to scold her eight year old for tracking mud through the kitchen; she’d spent half a day trying to talk the Crone in off the ground after she’d first prostrated herself there before shaking her head and giving up.
Arnold was the one who spoke up.
“You’re tracking mud through the kitchen! If you’re not going to have enough sense to come in out of the rain at least have enough consideration to think about wiping your feet before coming in the house!” He had a towel and was using it to blot Tante’s hair, which was dripping onto the floor as well. Her entire dorsal aspect was muddy.
The Crone was behaving like a scolded eight year old, arms crossed and frowning as Arnold cleaned her up and tsked, working up a good whine of rationalization and trying to find a way to pin at least half of the mess on Baltha. Her thinking shifted gears as Ina and Yang entered the kitchen carrying in half a dozen reusable grocery bags. She’d go for sympathy instead of rationalization.
“What’s for lunch? I’m hungry.” She added a little sniffle. She had, after all, been lying in the rain for two days and was indeed very hungry. Surely the loving group around her would forget all about how silly she’d been and the mess she’d made when they realized how famished she must be.
“No lunch, we’re fasting.” Ina’s response was blunt. The group had decided it was the perfect time to take advantage of the fact that the Crone hadn’t eaten; no one wanted to listen to her bitch through a fast she hadn’t chosen.
The others were in fact off meditating in preparation for what was to come.
“Fasssssting? What fooooooooor?” Tante couldn’t let a good whine work up go to waste.
“The purge will go more smoothly”. Ina was busily pulling packages from the bags they’d brought in. “We need stock pots, do you have stock pots?”
“Purge?” Ina had diverted Arnold’s attention and he was staring at her so intently that he was decorating Tante’s face with the mud he’d blotted out of her hair as he starting reconsidering what they were going to do. “There was no purging with the acid, no purging with the mushrooms. Why do we have to purge?”
The tiny woman turned and put her hands on hips. It looked as if Arnold was about the experience the karma of scolding, and he stopped his mindless ministrations of Tante as they all turned their attentions to her. She just smiled and shook her head before not scolding them.
“If there is little or nothing to purge, then you will not have to purge. If there is much, it will come, and it will go. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is not so easy. But it is the way with yagé. Before it opens the doors for us, it empties us of what we hold inside, that which needs to be purged. Only then will it allow us to communicate.”
“With whom?” Tante’s German heritage came through in her grammatical fascism.
“With the gods, of course.”
Tante found herself sleeping alone in the front room the next morning. The double duet of the Dao had spent the night on the beach after a beautiful session of intercourse with Sea and Zeus and Juno and Baltha, all of them playing a great game of Poseidon and the Plankton. Arnold and Yanaha were just starting to putter around in the kitchen when she awoke from her dream. She told them about it as they came in to settle in and stoke the stove.
“I was a piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle composed of an infinite number of elements of various size and shape that extended across the kitchen table of eternity. From any distance it appeared to be solid black, but from the exo-dimensional perspective of my chair at the table of eternity, one could see that it was actually composed of pieces of every conceivable color. When one got really close, it was obvious that each color was an illusion, a trick of the light bouncing around between the subatomic particles of each piece.” The crone was sitting kind of bleary eyed in a pair of purple sweats. Arnold handed her a mug of coffee, just the way she liked it.
Ja came dragging into the front room with a mug he’d picked up in the kitchen along the way. He and Haile shared a space over the garage where the wireless access was best.
“That tea last night gave me the strangest dreams. I was a player in an infinitely large orchestra playing a doing a sublime piece, the song of the Yeti, which stretched out across the entire cosmos with its resonance. From the balcony of my exo-dimensional perspective, no matter how hard I tried, I could not be dispassionate, the music was too beautiful. From my self in the orchestra, I was so focused on my piece that it was overwhelming me. Then suddenly I heard with great clarity, and saw, and felt, and I knew that each piece of the song being played was just made up of notes and tones and audible wavelengths that I could feel bouncing around, and once I let go of self, the song began to play me. I was in perfect harmony with the all.” He smiled before sipping his coffee.
“We feasted at an endless Chinese buffet, enjoyed the meal as an interactive delight of hot and cold, sweet and sour, bitter and umami, no MSG.” Arnold smiled as he remembered.
“Yes, each flavor really just a dance of the biochemicals on tongue, a dance with tongue and brain and the passions of the animal.” Yanaha’d enjoyed the dream as well.
“Wow, that seems so totally mundane and random.” Ja L’dOL as he said it.
“And you share your dreams?’ Tante was really fascinated now. There was something so romantic to her about the idea of sharing dreams with another.
“We do this a lot. It’s how it gets when you’ve been together for 50 years.” Yanaha was rubbing Arnold’s shoulder’s as he settled into his chair with his pipe. He enjoyed started the day with a little buzz.
“I dreamt of death and semicolons.” Haile sat down in his spot on the couch, sans coffee.
“Bummer, Dude, uh, Dudette.” Ja was holding on to Jolly mode, despite his friend’s obvious despair.
“Whichever.” The deep despair of death and semicolons, perhaps death by semicolons. Haile was now almost endlessly online.
Baltha and the Band of Bacchanalers from the Beach made their way up to the house, bringing quite a bit of Sea and Shore up with them. They were still all tuned in to the same wavelength of energy exchange that had been zipping around in figure eights through much of the night.
Yin and Alonso had set up a love nest at the north end of the beach, Yang and Ina a few hundred meters away to the south. Baltha had been off shore for hours with Sea and had been playing humpback with a nice young Orca who’d been making his way up the coast. When Zeus and Juno inadvertently settled in to a nice little cove right between the Quartet of Qi and started in on a nice bit of Poseidon and Aphrodite role playing just as Arnold and Yanaha were exploring the wonders of lucid lustiness, a flow of Tantric energy was set in motion.
At least that’s how Juno explained it to them all as they sat down for the morning story telling that was part of the non-ritual at the house on the MTJ in Mendocino. The twin twosomes and Baltha and their hosts were all nodding in agreement. Even Piwi and Bast seemed to agree, the former panting and the latter licking her nether regions contentedly.
Tante and Ja looked at each other, both feeling like their grunts had clearly been dissed. They’d been left out of the loop. They engaged in a little synchronistic frowning. Haile remained an outsider even from that, dispassionate, engaged with Mac.
The tall thin technically inclined one was going to lead the discussion about as far into the rational and dispassionate as it could go. Or at least that was the intent.
“I took the liberty of doing some research.” No one replied, so s-he continued. “Alonso and Inacayalina are quite a bit older than Yin and Yang.”
“The disapproving elder?” Juno smiled as she said it. After all, Yin and Yang were the babies of the group and they’d just met the Argentines.
“The twins from Shanghai are six months old. The twins from the antipode at Buenos Aeries are almost two hundred years old.”
Alonso twirled his mustache. “It’s a genetics thing.”
Ina was nodding. “That and proper diet, the right medicinals.”
“But if you’re all Dragons of Fomalhaut b, why is development different from that of Yin and Yang?” Haile’s inquiry had shifted from protective to inquisitive.
“It’s also about the polarity, the bonding and mating. We developed very slowly, being of moderate polarity, having had two Terran parents. Yin and Yang are our compliments, so they were developing very quickly relative to what their father’s Terran genetics would confer.” Alonso had clearly studied the matter. “Also, they’ve got some earthen biochemistry from the vase they were gestated in, some ancient stuff from the shells and amber in their make-up from their mother. We’ve got some leather from the pouch we were carried in. In both cases the sea water brought some of the other, non-human Terran influences into our bodies. We were all nursed by sea creatures as well. The fact that we had a live Terran mother made us the perfect match for Yin and Yang, who knew only the vase and each other as they formed.”
“Oh.” The answer clearly saddened Haile.
“What’s wrong Dudette?” Ja was picking up the sad vibe.
“We’re all going to die” Haile the Haggard.
“Of course we are Dude.” Ja walked over and sat down next to the Androgene. “That’s what we’ve been talking about, being little specks in an infinite cosmos, the ephemeral nature of our lives, the importance of living in the here and now.”
“It’s the telomeres.” The frown deepened. “The nanobots can’t deal with the telomeres. The neuro-circuitry can’t deal with the nanobots. The passions are too powerful for the code. The semicolons cannot endure. The singularity is far away.”
“Death to the semicolons.” Ja said it half heartedly. Somehow he know his friend was dying.
They were all picking up the vibe. Tante got up and sat on the arm of the couch next and looked intently into Haile’s eyes. “What’s wrong baby?”
“I took the liberty of doing some research”. The line was a good start the first time around, what the heck. “I had our genes sequenced. Well, not all of us, but those of us who just came to be in the past year. It seemed appropriate, given the unusual circumstances of our births and our amped up development.”
“You had our genes sequenced? Wow Dudette, that seems pretty invasive.” Ja had been bugged by stepping into the Trumpter’s dreams; having one’s DNA covertly analyzed felt kind of like rape.
“The diagnostic manual suggests that I suffer from a pathology within the range ASD known as Shelly Cooperism and ergo am excused from all manner of inappropriate social behavior.” Haile tried a big grin but didn’t carry it off very well.
“Oh Haile, you know we forgive you.” Tante was just that way. “So what does it say.”
“You’re going to die, too. Pretty soon. Just like me.” Haile tried the smile again.
That went over like a lead balloon.
“What’s the bit about nanobots?” Arnold was trying to raise the vibe in the room a little. Perhaps if they got back into the realms of rationality that were a bit brighter, it might help.
“Just as our friends the Dragons picked up some of the biochemistry of the vessels of gestation and from those who nursed them, I picked up some coding from the incubator that those who produced me brought me to term in. It’s been trying to solve the problem of telomere shortening, that thing thought to limit human lifespan. It’s been trying to learn how to overcome the developmental problems with clones. It’s also been trying to learn how we think and feel and remember, learn the secrets of consciousness so that if we cannot learn how to live forever, at least our consciousness might. That was its programming. It’s hit a glitch and I think it’s killing me.”
“Cancer?” Yanaha asked.
“Of a sort.” Haile smiled.
So much for brighter shades of gray.
“But you said Tante was going to die soon, too.” Ja was trying to brush it off as uncertainly, he wasn’t ready to lose his lifelong friend and companion just yet.
“It’s almost Easter. The time is near.” Baltha left the room in silence.
“May I present my friend Don Alonso Quixano Bergoglio.” It was the most anyone had ever heard Yin say in such a long and drawn out fashion all by herself. She indicated the tall, handsome Latino beside her with a sweep of her hands, and he bowed, his Gaucho’s straw hat held to his heart.
“And Inacayalita.” Well, Yin had almost said something by herself. Yang did add to it in a complementary fashion as he beamed at the plump little Mocoví woman beside him.
“We met at the Zen Center.” All four of them said it in unison.
“Ah.” Arnold did a little channeling of Hari.
“Welcome. We’re just tossing around a some light conversation about the rational versus spiritual nature of humanity, good and evil, duty and passion; matters both cosmic and mundane.” Juno smiled at the newcomers. “Would you like some wine?”
“Or tea or coffee or food?” Arnold was up and bringing more chairs to the big table.
“I”d love some wine.” Alonso was tall. While one might have expected Yin to go for a guy who resembled Yang, someone who complemented her the way he did, that just goes to show that one never knows, don’t it?
Yang was soft, Yin was buff. Alonso was ripped, athletic, outdoorsy, a herdsman just as the twins Mongol father had been. Yang was wan, Yin dark ebony, Alonso the light tan of Castilian Conquistador. Yang was a rather effeminate man, even with the black spikes, Yin was a strong and tough woman, even with the earrings; Alonso was a stud muffin. His beard was trimmed to a perfect Van Dyke, his mustache curled with scented wax. They made a beautiful pair, something sculpted.
“Tea for me please, if you have it.” Inacayalita took Yang further into his pole of twinhood as well. She was small and round and sweet as pie, a woman with a perpetual smile. She was nearly as dark as his sister. Both of the Argentines had brown eyes.
“The twins tell us you’re related to Pope Francis?” Tante threw the statement out there as a question. Alonso might be the first real Christian she ever spent much time with. Her parents hadn’t really had any religion, and Tamminya had just handed her an old copy of a King James Bible and told her to read it, especially the New Testament, and Revelations for sure. She’d picked around through it here and there at best. She crapped out early with the begetting and found herself guffawing with the ravings that included the end times. The middle stuff she’d kind of picked through.
“Yes.” The twins said it in unison. The Bergoglio twins. They smiled at each other. Inacayalita nodded to her brother, who seated himself beside Yin and took a sip of wine.
“Our grandfather’s family has been in Argentina for several hundred years, they were among the original settlers from the old world in that region. He was a distant cousin to the Pope. Our mother was his only child and heir apparent to a Grade Ranquilo.” He smiled as Ina took over.
“But alas, Mamá fell in love with our Mocoví father, an indigenous man from the land between the Rios Berijo and Salado, the best gaucho in the whole country. He was a wild one, wouldn’t work the big ranches, just ran and hunted and fished with the old ones on the land.” You could tell she worshipped her father.
“When she became pregnant, our grandfather sent Mamá off to a convent and ordered the sisters to find foster parents for us. The shame of a daughter such as she was too much for his proud Castilian dignity.” If he hadn’t had been so cultured himself, Alonso would have spit.
“Our mother was in such a state of grief in having been sent to Buenos Aires and disowned by her father, she was very weak. She died giving birth to us.” Ina blushed. “Well, I guess the introduction is getting a bit drawn out.”
“No, please, go on! You’re a great story teller!” Ja was starting to cheer up quite a bit.
“Well, our mother did not survive and our grandfather told the sisters to do away with us. We were terribly premature, not likely to live anyway. Luckily, our father came for us. His mother was a shaman, and when she learned that she had grandchildren on the way she took matters into her own hands. We were carried from the orphanage in leather pouches filled with warm sea water and nursed with the milk of elephant seals.”
“We were raised by the crones of the Mocoví until we reached puberty. It so happened that our grandfather died that year as well and we inherited his property. The Jesuits and Sisters served as our guardians until we came of age. We spent the next decade being educated in the ways of the dominant culture, and the next after that learning even more, in a variety of places.” Alonso paused and took a breath. “We learned the ways of that culture that brings us all together here now.”
“And what makes you think there’s something that brings us all together in the here now?” Zeus was feeling super rational all of a sudden, defensive about it; perhaps it was the masculine pheromones wafting off of Alonso.
“We are also Dragons of Fomalhaut b, like our bonded ones, Yin and Yang.” Ina beamed.
“We’re couples.” The four part harmony was nice. Tante had her minstrels.
“Synchronicity?” Juno figured she’d throw it out there.
“Ah, are we to add Jung to the mix in our discussion of what brings us all to the here and now? Rationality? Spirituality? Alchemical Psychology?” Zeus still had the big flirt going on with Juno. They’d been playing footsie nonstop since his last monolog.
“How about spirituality? How about the cosmic order of things and special purpose and how that fits in with living life?” Ja’s time outside seemed to have worked wonders for his processing of the weekend. “I’ve been thinking about what Hari said and things my mother taught me, and what I’ve come up with goes something like this: Time is not real, self is not real, all is interdependent and entangled, all parts of a whole. The boundaries between self and other are those which we create, everything is ever evolving.”
“So how do to go from the infinite cosmic to living life in the ephemeral every day?” Zeus was indeed being a bit aggressive. Hormones.
“The recognition of the causes of those things that take away from the quality of life. That stuff you were talking about before, flourishing, happiness. Why don’t we have those things? Why do we suffer? In a cosmic sense, nothing matters, we attach importance to material things or see certain states of being as undesirable. Better to be Zeus than Arnold, better rich than poor, smart than stupid…”
“Good than evil.” Tante had to throw that one in there.
Ja continued. “No, it’s not quite that simple. I’m just saying that it’s attractions and aversions and desires and fears are silly in the grand scheme of things. If we accept those things we cannot change, it makes life a lot easier.”
“What about changing those things we cannot accept, those things that can be changed?” Zeus was indeed fired up. “It’s fairly easy to attach importance to not having enough to eat.”
“Learn, look long and hard at the way things are. Take the path of the Bodhisattva, awaken to the call of the Yeti, develop the self in order to develop the whole.” Ja seemed to enter an alpha state as he spoke; his eyes were glazed. “Recognize that the conventional truth of day to day living produces the ultimate truth of the all, this is life on earth. This is it, the emptiness of essence. The here and now is identical and interdependent with the ultimate and forever, it’s all a matter of where your head’s at.”
“What about change? Might that not be what brings us together here?” Alonso looked at Zeus; they really were alike in a many ways. “What needs to change most in this world?”
“We need more generosity, more mindfulness, more patience, more joyous effort, more meditation, more wisdom. More love.” Ja smiled. “I could go on for a very long time. But then, my anarchist’s heart asks me how I can possibly tell others what we need? Even if what we need is more love?”
“What about good and evil?” Tante’s eternal question.
“There is no evil. There is vice. Vice comes from fear, anxiety, confusion.” It was all old stuff to Juno, the psychologist.
“Those things we felt in the bad haired one.” Yanaha commented.
“So how do we overcome vice?” Tante really wanted to know.
“We have to learn. Gain wisdom. Get insight into what needs to be done and do it.” The broken heart of the Yeti man was swelling with passion. “But I don’t know what to do!”
“It sounds a lot like what I learned in my studies of eastern spiritual thought,” Alonso had been a guest yoga instructor at the Zen Center “although I found it interesting how closely the teachings of Kongfuzi mirrored the patriarchal training I got from the Jesuits.”
“It’s interesting how some of the eastern spiritual thought interfaces with that of the Mocoví elders as well.” Ina sipped her tea and smiled. It was one of Yanaha’s special blends, good for lucid dreams. Ina was an herbalist who knew most plants by smell, if not by sight.
“Yes, well, as a young man, I had to have the indigenous ways ground out of me by the Jesuits.” He frowned. “I was polished like a stone, cultured in the social graces, strictly controlled by the rules and hierarchical order of the church. Obedience was the way, good and evil, reward and punishment.”
“Rules and Fascists and the Church.” Ja was appalled.
“Yes, and it was so different from the natural and spontaneous way of life we’d grown up with as children among the Mocoví. As children even the language we learned was so different, our thoughts were so primordial. Our lives were naturally lived in harmony with the universe.”
“The way of the old master was attractive. We Dragons of Fomalhaut b are very polar beings. It’s why we tend to come into this world as twins. The contrast between the ways of our parents’ people and the cultures in which we were raised fit those teachings like, well, like Yin and Yang fit me and Ina.”
“For me, it was a way to integrate the excellence and purity of moral virtue I’d learned in the rigid rules of the church with the power and light of the cosmic whole, the natural world that the shamans had shown me as a child. It allowed me to examine the projections and reflections of myself and others. I came to recognize how language is not up to dealing with reality sometimes, my childhood language was so different, and that the naming and categorizing and rewards and punishments of the culture I encounter as a teen and adult are wanting, something artificial. It helped me to see that my natural instincts towards justice and kindness and virtue are effortless; they don’t require the rituals of the church, I didn’t need to confess meaningless sins or eat of the body of Christ.” Alonso was looking upward at the nothing a few feet in front of his face.
“I love the way Chinese thought integrates with the cosmic view I’ve gained through my shamanic work and the counseling I do at Zen retreats.” Ina took over. “Our emptiness, that vast place of the great beyond, it leaves us full of incredible potential. Our impermanence is what makes our life in this realm so important. We’re part of Gaia, like water, we just flow. Ramble without destination. Experience reality exactly as it is, we can learn effortless channeling of the right thing to do.”
“Really?” Tante was intrigued.
“Do you dream much?” Yanaha asked as she poured another cup of her brew and handed it to Tante.
“Yes, all the time, vividly, in great detail.” She smiled.
“Do you fly in your dreams?” This time it was Ina who asked.
“Sometimes. It’s one of the ways I can tell if I’m dreaming or not. I can’t fly when I’m awake.” She was really grinning at that point.
“Are you awake now, or dreaming?” Ina.
“I’m awake.” She was sure of it. She could taste the tea, was enjoying meeting new friends.
“Who is Zoldak?” Ina was staring at her now, intently.
“Wow, you’re good.” Yanaha cut the tension by distracting Ina.
The little woman beamed. “Yeah, I’ve been out there pretty far for a long time. I do a lot of work with Ayahuasca. A little bit of Salvia.”
“Oh, I like peyote. We’ve also travelled with the Sage One, and the mushrooms here in Forest are very nice.” It seemed Yanaha and Ina were colleagues of a sort in the love of botanicals and other medicinals.
Tante seemed to be recovering from a little doze. For a minute she’d thought she was a butterfly.
“No, the secret to finding the way is to look for the empty space. The path through the forest is where the trees aren’t. The way to go is that which your instinct tells you effortlessly, the way that is not forced.” Alonso smiled.
“Anarchy!” Ja smiled, too and did a fist pump.
“I believe there is such a thing as duty, the duty to live in harmony with others in society, which is one’s innate instinct, to have concern for the whole. But you’re right, duty cannot become a prison.” He tweaked the twirl on his mustache. It was gorgeous. He wrapped his arm around Yin.
“And now we’ve found love.” She kissed his neck just below beardline.
“Now we are complete.” Yang pulled Ina down on his knee and bounced her.
“Yes, you guys did say that you were going to tell us about escape from the chains of birth and death.” Tante was taunting the twins, t’was in good fun. ”Falling in love has definitely worked wonders for both of you.” She grinned at them. Love was blooming all around, springtime on the coast.
“Well, our chains of birth were definitely to each other.” Yin had gotten downright verbose.
“We were so focused on the self of Yang and non-self of Yin.” Yang, too.
“That we failed to see the all.” All together now.
“Our constant engagement with each other led to conceptions, deceptive abstracts superimposed on self, based on the other.” Yin.
“We were so focused on the center between us we failed to see left or right.” Yang.
“Until we fell in love and saw the others.” They turned from each other toward their beloveds as they said it, a rolling of the Taijitu into half.
A drop of water holding the reflection of the Pacific Coast sunset rolled down Alonso’s wine glass and was gone.
“So it ties back in with being part of a cosmic whole. Each one of us a piece of a grand puzzle, interdependent, ever changing, evolving together, flowing through time.” Haile loved picking out patterns.
“And there’s no time but the present.” Ja.
“But the present is made from the past and determines the future. It’s what makes right action and wisdom so important, cosmic plan or no cosmic plan.” Zeus was taking the action of offering his hand to his lovely partner, ready to lead her off to a nice spot on the beach.
“Well, let’s save cosmic plans for tomorrow. I’m tired.” Tante managed to say it without any whine at all. The old crone was slipping.
"And the chains of death. The twins spoke of the chains of their birth. I will speak of the chains of death. Another day.” Haile.
“Well, if you’re interested in an old man’s two cent’s worth, I don’t believe in good and evil.” Arnold was dishing up warmed over pie onto plates at the big dining table off the kitchen. He had vanilla ice cream to go with it. The coffee was fresh ground and rich. Sometimes good stuff just happens.
“Sometimes life is just unfair and bad stuff just happens. To good people.”
“So that’s fate, but not evil? Is it the work of God?” Tante asked him.
“Gods and devils have never meant much to me. If the god of Abraham is the choice I was given for the great decider, I reject that choice. He was kind of a schmuck.” He took a big bite of pie.
“Is it karma then, reward and punishment, cause and effect?”
“It’s just life. Suppose there’s a guy. He’s a good and virtuous guy, pretty well off, a firm believer that if he does the right thing, he’ll be happy and prosper and everything will be fine.” He sipped some coffee. “Then one day, his world falls apart; his wife and kids are killed in an accident and he loses all his money due to a clause in his insurance policy he didn’t know about. He hasn’t done anything wrong, but still, all kinds of bad stuff has happened to him.”
“So not karma, but still, it could be the will of God.” Tante was really interested in Arnold’s perspective. After all, they were children of the same culture in some sense; not her Koori culture, but her Anti-Christian one.
“That would be a pretty unfair god. But then maybe the guy gets sick, too, the stress being too much for him and all. And then suppose everybody starts questioning the guy, second guessing things like what he might have done wrong, whether or not he’d done the right maintenance on the car that his family died in or whether or not he’d read the insurance policy closely enough. They figure that maybe the disease is punishment for having screwed up somehow. That would be even worse.” He paused for a minute. “That’s the god of Abraham for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Book of Job. It’s all about a grand and majestic omnipotent God being a real shitheel to the maggoty worm that is one of his most faithful and virtuous followers basically just because he’s God and can do it and Satan pesters him into it. There’s no justice, no equality, no rhyme or reason, just a couple of powerful overlords screwing around with some guy who pretty much tends to try to do the right thing and takes things as they come and deals with them without a lot of complaint. God and Satan are assholes.”
"Sounds like if there’s any evil in that story, God’s got a pretty big hand in it.” Tante sighed.
“Sometimes shit just happens.” Arnold was comfortable in that bottom line. “There’s a lot of injustice in the world. We’re not all Zeus, some die young for no good reason, sometimes people get persecuted based on color of skin or genetics or belief system. Genocide happens.”
“But sometimes the karma of man has a pretty big hand in it as well.” Tante had been giving it a lot of thought. “Something caused the accident that killed the family and the insurance company that had been collecting premiums from the family should have followed through on what they promised and the guy shouldn’t have lost everything in addition to whatever twist of fate took his family. Disease due to stress? Sure, from what I’ve seen, attitude has an awful lot to do with disease. And genocide? That’s totally the hand of man.”
“As is ecocide.” Yanaha’s head shake was in the negative.
“Not the hand of god then, right?” Arnold was nodding his head in agreement as he said it.
“Could be a lot of interactive effects of karma for the poor guy who lost everything. It’s not his own personal karma, just the karma of the cosmos. The Book of Job tells us that the guy in charge is just an asshole sometimes and you have to deal with it.” Tante was nodding as well.
“Of course, there is some truth there as well, and there is some cause and effect, some karma.” Yanaha was thoughtful, playing with new ideas running around in her head. “Humans likened to maggoty worms when compared to the gods. We are beasts, organisms of the earth. We do bring some of our karma down upon ourselves.The pollution we’ve brought to the air and water, the changes to climate, these are things that we have wrought.” She continued. “That is comprehensible. The gods who think themselves above the maggots and the worms don’t mind destroying Gaia.”
“But there are things that just happen.” Zeus and Juno had come in to join them at the table. He opened a bottle of wine and sat as he poured and spoke. “When the meteor that crashed into the earth sixty five million years ago came hurtling down like Thor’s mighty hammer, it’s not like the dinosaurs brought it upon themselves.”
“It’s all a matter of scale.” Haile looked up from Mac. “The guy who lost his family and riches and health perhaps due to the karma of a drunk driver and bad insurance and neurobiological influences on health suffered the effects of interaction of those factors at a personal level with no fault of his own. The Holocaust and Dafur and Cambodia and Bosnia and genocides all over the world are the results of interactive effects of choices and actions at a scale of greater magnitude. So is the damage being done to environment. The meteor? Perhaps just more complex levels of interactive effect of karma still. Binary choices raised to the power of infinite possibility.”
“One person can’t carry out a genocide on her own. Still, is there some thing called evil that creates a hate filled leader like a Hitler? Or a Trumpet? I was inside that guy’s head. What I felt was anger.” Tante was really getting into this.
“I felt fear.” Ja
“I felt isolation.” Haile.
“I felt sorrow.” Yanaha.
“I felt guilt.” Arnold
“But did anyone feel evil?” Tante asked.
No one spoke up.
“It just seems to me that the idea of an omnipotent monarchical god who doles out rewards and punishments and whose will can’t be questioned and who works feats of magic and brings on plagues and warfare and who can bring people back to life or replace the dead with ready substitutes, that kind of god reeks of control.” Arnold finally broke the silence.
“It reeks of Patriarchy”. Juno.
“It reeks of otherworldliness.” Yanaha.
“It mostly just reeks.” Tante.
“No, give me sense perception and reasoning, no mythical gods beyond what’s here. There’s an organic intelligence inherent in the matter of the universe, it has its own divine rationality. There’s no need for the spiritual.” Zeus’ left brain was speaking again.
“So my dear, the entire cosmos can be reduced to cause and effect and rational action? Is it all so mechanistic?” Juno was grinning at him seductively. Their minds turned each other on, a lot. She ran her left great toe along his calf.
“Reduction of the universal divine rational into the fragmented individual human rational is the problem. Control of the passions can be a challenge.” He smiled back. They were definitely communicating.
“You do seem to have a lot of testosterone. One of the guys in the park told me testosterone was evil.” Tante was taking it all in. Zeus was pretty easy that way.
“Ah yes, we all have our social roles to fill. When the rationalists all get their passions under control and recognize their interdependence and responsibility to the whole, rational harmony will no doubt follow.” Juno took a sip of wine. “Sometimes we just have to accept what is, recognize that the cosmos was here for an infinity before Zeus and it will be here for an infinity after Zeus is gone. His passions mean little in the grand scheme of things.” She winked, lightly bit the tip of her tongue.
“There is a certain order to the cosmos, mathematical. It’s in the stars. Cooperation is key.” Zeus had gotten very serious in his tone. “But wholehearted Stoic detachment from desire is not for me, nor is dispassion. I have social roles, I have duties, I am passionate about them. I cannot sit dispassionately by as the Oligarchs destroy environment and humanity, destroy the potential for our children. Perhaps the great Roman generals preferred not to pass judgment; I reject that. I feel. I have grand desires. I have anger and grief and joy. I choose not to accept the nakedness of the Emperor and the way things are.” He was breathing hard, his voice boomed.
“You have compassion.” Ja was entranced by the zeal of Zeus’ delivery.
“Deep passion, grand desires, yes.” So was Juno. She, too, was nearly panting, her pulse rate was up.
“There is beauty in the finitude of life, it makes it worth living well. As do those things that come for the infinity after Zeus is gone. Carpe diem.” He toasted his wife and blew her a kiss.
The doorbell rang, and the spell was broken.
The End is Near